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Why Aren't More Linux Users Gamers? 693

Posted by Zonk
from the all-about-the-games dept.
tops writes "MadPenguin.org wonders why more Linux users aren't gamers and attempts to answer that question. The article suggests, 'As far as I'm concerned, it all comes down to a choice. Expect the gaming industry to follow the Linux doctrine or instead, build up a viable, cross platform gaming market that includes us, the Linux users.' The article urges publishers to consider Linux users as a viable market, and requests that game developers target Linux as a platform during the pre-production phase." What do you think are the most important obstacles barring the big game publishers from reaching out to the Linux market more than they already do?
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Why Aren't More Linux Users Gamers?

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  • by tjwhaynes (114792) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:39PM (#22706492)

    There are plenty of Linux gamers out there. You can find the greatest concentrations of them on multiplayer servers such as Wesnoth, Nexuiz, Urban Terror and Tremulous. I even heard that there were more UT2k4 Linux players than Mac OS, which makes the current state of the Linux UT3 client all the more frustrating.

    I used to dual-boot Windows/Linux, especially when I had Mechwarrior 3 and Quake 3. After a while, I realised I just didn't reboot to Windows to play games anymore - Quake 3 worked on Linux and Mechwarrior eventually gathered dust. The inevitable next step was to reclaim that disk space and wipe Windows off the system.

    So - it's a "build it and they will come" scenario. There aren't that many AAA titles released for Linux, hence there aren't that many AAA titles being purchased. Meanwhile, the user-created games are seeing a significant number of players. I don't thinks a question of "Linux gamers are cheapskates" either - the UT2k4 player figures show that commercial games can reach a significant gaming audience on Linux.

    Cheers,
    Toby Haynes

  • by Kev647 (904931) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:54PM (#22706826)
    Your link has an internal server error: Internal Server Error The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request. Please contact the server administrator, support@freehostia.com and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error. More information about this error may be available in the server error log. Apache/1.3.33 Server at united-underground.com Port 80
  • by jtev (133871) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:56PM (#22706840) Journal

    It depends on a few factors. First off, how is the game distributed, if it's distributed as staticly linked binaries, then installing it could be quite simple. Same if it is distributed as source code. If, like most complex non-open-source software, it is distributed as a dynamically linked binaries it would be more dificult to ensure proper installation, unless you knew what distrobution you would be installing it on. The typical Unix response to this has been to include all needed libraries with the program, and install everything to "/opt".

    While this procedure can work, it does leave a bit to be desired. First, this defeats the purpose of dynamic linking, since you are copying the entire library to many places on the host. Second, if there are bug fixes, or other patches to the underlying libary, the program will not automatically receive those patches. So, you are stuck with either Dependancy Hell, or this mish-mash of combining the dynamic linking with static libaries, or full static linking of the binaries. Static linking of binaries works though, just look at how much software was developed for DOS. It's got disadvantages, but it does work.

    The typical response to this mess by most Linux distros has been a package system. Think of it like MSI, but on some serious steriods. The package manager keeps track of what versions of what libaries have been installed, and can let a package know what is available on the system. The biggest problem with this is that there are a few incompatable package management systems, most notably Debian and RPM (Redhat Package Manager).

    So, after all this confusion, the answer to your question is "It depends on how the distributer wants to distribute the software, and how many distros they wish to hit"

  • by Kev647 (904931) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:01PM (#22706934)
    MY POST WAS NOT OFFTOPIC! He listed a link that can't be seen and he got an extra point for that! Furthermore, here is proof that Halo II is VISTA ONLY! http://www.megagames.com/news/html/pc/halo2pc-vistaonly-bungieqna.shtml [megagames.com] http://ve3d.ign.com/articles/reviews/738/Halo-2-Vista-Review [ign.com] But if you want to crack, that is up to you. http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6146&Itemid=2 [next-gen.biz] Seriously, get it together you moderators.
  • Cost of Testing (Score:3, Informative)

    by bazald (886779) <bazald@zeniDEBIANpex.com minus distro> on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:31PM (#22707418) Homepage
    Disclaimer/Plug: I don't work in the video games industry, but I have close ties to a few people who do. Also, I've written my own cross-platform game engine or game development framework that allows OpenGL and Direct3D to be used interchangeably as the rendering engine.

    So, with ever improving cross-platform middleware, why are game developers still ignoring Linux, by and large? If they can target Windows XP, Windows Vista, XBox 360, PS2, PS3, and Wii with one title, surely Linux couldn't be hard to add it the list. I'll tell you, it isn't because game developers know how to use Direct3D only or that OpenGL is no good.

    When I questioned a friend in the industry about it, he said in the end that the only real reason for ignoring Linux is the time and cost of testing another platform. If they aren't going to profit enough from the release to pay the additional testers required, they won't even break even on the venture. The fact is, testing procedures require much work duplication across different platforms, even when the code doesn't need to be rewritten or significantly modified. So, from what I understand, it all comes down to testing cost.
  • by Swift Kick (240510) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:33PM (#22707436)
    While your post may not have been off-topic, the link he posted *can* be seen. I just clicked on it and here's the first few lines from the text:

    "Million of Halo 2 fans/Windows XP users are rejoicing due to the fact that yesterday, a team of hackers known as "Razor1911 released a patch that allowed Windows XP users to install Halo 2 on their PC. A while back Falling Leaf Systems announced that they were to release compatibility drivers legally so that XP users can play Halo 2, but Razor1911 claimed that they beat them too it, and there's no doubt that they're right. Although there are still compatibility issues with the new patch, Halo 2 does run on most Windows XP machines, mostly in single player mode - there have been many complaints regarding the online multiplayer. Razor1911 has also released a re-pack pirated version of Halo 2 that should run better than the original Vista DVD, which included the patch with it. Along with Halo 2, Razor1911 has also released an XP patch for Shadowrun."

    Oh yah, it also seems like you were wrong about Halo II being Vista only....

  • by initdeep (1073290) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:05PM (#22707978)
    hmmm

    Case & PSU $100
    CPU $200 (for a really good one)
    Mobo $75
    RAM $50 (for 2GB)
    HDD $100 (for 500GB)
    GPU $200 (for REALLY Good one)

    throw in the peripherals and other junk for about $100.00 and you are still well short of the $1000-1500 mark.

    And with the ability to buy a Quad-core dell with 22" monitor and all kinds of GPU for about $700 almost every month on some special or another....
    I fail to see how this is true.......

  • by RedK (112790) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:19PM (#22708166)

    3. Linux is a moving/amorphous target. Usually people get around this by using open source, since that means you can just compile against the new kernel and you're fine. But for a closed source, binary distribution this isn't as simple. The game manufacturers (who use a lot of tricks to make their games faster and better) would have to try to optimize for a platform that has multiple distributions and multiple hardware platforms (32 bit, 64 bit, solaris, mac) where there's no guarantee the kernel or the scheduler or the window manager will remain the same. In windows they can be sure that the movement's going to be steady and they'll have to release a compatibility patch infrequently.
    This more than the rest of your post, marks you as Linux ignorant. User space software isn't linked against the kernel. What you are describing is dynamically linked binaries against libc and other distribution supplied libraries like for gaming : SDL, OpenAL, Xlibs, Mesa. There are 2 ways around that particular problem :

    1- Ship statically linked executables. Loki Games (remember them ? they made ports of commercial games to Linux) did that back in 2001. I take out my HOM&MIII CD and install it on Ubuntu 7.10 and it works. Just like it worked on Red Hat 6.0 back in the day, just like I used to run it on Slackware 8.0. I has a graphic installer, made using GTK+, it's as easy to install as any Windows games. Sure this doesn't account for sparc/ppc/mips/etc architectures, since you still need another binary for those, but neither did Windows games work on Windows NT for PPC/Alpha/Mips back when Microsoft was still cross-architecture so that's not actually a Linux weakness nor is it an issue. The Latest Sun Sparc workstations don't exactly have game ready hardware.

    2- The Oracle way. They basically ship you compiled object files and the installer links them for you against your own system libraries. Takes a bit longer to install, but you're sure you don't have to find the exact library they linked against and the executable size can remain smaller thanks to dynamic linking. This requires that you supply it with a linker (GNU ld) and all the proper dev packages of your distribution, so it's a little more complex. Of course distributions could make sure to just install everything by default if games shipped this way.

    People that have been shipping binary Linux software since Linux has existed have never had the specific issues you mentionned. Quit the FUD and go for the real reason there is no gaming on Linux : lack of Market Share. Loki Games basically proved that. They went bankrupt after a few ports since their installed base wasn't enough to support their porting costs.
  • by ADRA (37398) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:43PM (#22708486)
    "I'm looking at a $1000-1500 box at a minimum"

    1. Take a brand new Computer that has XP and a fast core 2 duo (Researching the fact that you aren't buying a non-upgradable lump of garbage like HP/Dell). ~$600
    2. Upgrade RAM to 2 GB ~$60 pessimistically
    3. Get a smoking graphics card ~200-250

    Total price: $900 or 30% more than what you were going to pay for anyways; That and a few days of passive specs analysis and 10 minutes installation time.

    "upgrade at least once every 3 years"
    If you're telling me that better games hit PC's more often, then point proven. If you're telling me that The same games you're running on your 3 year obsolete PC are now magically able to run on your 6 year old console, you're missing the point. Consoles are early into this generation and PC graphics have already long past their hardware specs. There is nowhere for consoles to grow for another 4 years in your words.

    But for PC's, if you really want a super duper bleeding edge piece of gaming godness, you can, but by no means do 'most' game devs shove ridiculously high requirements down your throat.

    I have a good rig in my eyes and I've spent a total of maybe $1000 over the 5 years that I've had it. That is not to say that all I do is game day in and out, it gets good use for many things like hi-def video (as its also a PVR / media PC).

    "Heck, the wii demonstrates that you can make a compelling gaming environment on pretty low end hardware"

    I absolutely love my Wii to death for the games that I play on it, but lets be frank, the CPU/GPU/lack of substantial storage hold it back from competing seriously in many gaming market segments.

    What I can agree to is that Linux gaming really isn't there yet, both in developer support and in market share. Developers interested in Linux work should take the approach of companies like ID/Epic and use/develop technology platforms which makes cross-platform porting simple. Since you need OpenGL pipelines for PS3's anyways, why not spend a little developer time to release an unsupported Linux client? Better yet, if there's a big pull on Linux then you may want to consider actually supporting it. But at this point I'd say Linux gamers will settle for 99% working binaries over waiting a year for Wine support.
  • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:01PM (#22708788)
    "Here's the thing, if I buy a PC to play DVD's, browse the Internet, etc, I can get something for $400-600 that does the job adequately. However, that system will not play games. If I want to play games I'm looking at a $1000-1500 box at a minimum"

    Not always true. Seems a lot of people think you have to have the top of the line system to play video games. I've played Shadowbane, EQII, WOW and Vanguard all on a Crappy E-Machines with a 9800 Pro. So, we are talking about $600 for a machine that has lasted me about 6 years now.

    Granted, I don't have the best graphics.. But then, my little e-machines with the 9800 pro handled 400 person + Banes on shadowbane better then my friends much much more expensive computers.
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:05PM (#22708824) Homepage Journal
    "I can get something for $400-600 that does the job adequately. However, that system will not play games."

    Bullshit.

    Pricewatch.com

    My most recent gaming system cost me $550. That's sans an 8800 or the newer 9-series nVidia card, I'm running dual 6800s.
  • by RedK (112790) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:13PM (#22708904)

    1. APIs. Yes, I'm aware of OpenGL and other APIs that can be cobbled together, but DirectX presents a much more coherent and stable platform for game developers to work with. Even with the unpopularity of DirectX 10, look at all the games that can smoothly use DX9 and have modular support for DX10... show me a single Linux API that can work that well. The closest thing I've seen is SDL which is a shadow of DirectX, and from what I can see is basically a dead project now.
    DirectX just sounds like it's a single API. The truth is it's a collection of different APIs for different things. DirectSound, DirectInput, DirectDraw, Direct3D, etc..

    SDL is a Layer library. It's basically an abstraction to things like Alsa, Xlibs, Mesa, OpenAL and others. Cobbled together APIs might sound bad, but in the end, it's no harder to learn to make a SDL application using OpenGL for graphics than it is to learn Direct3D with Win32.
  • by MrMunkey (1039894) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:21PM (#22709008) Homepage
    Awesome post. I'd mod you up if I had points. There are two points that I'd like to make.

    1) PC Games typically work for a lot longer than the life of a console. I can still play some of my older Windows 95 games on XP, and DOSBox allows me to play some of my really really old games on anythign DOSBox runs on.

    2) The cost of a gaming computer would be better represented by taking the difference in cost of the gaming computer to the base computer. Let's say $1250 - $500 = $750. That's more accurate, though I think that price a bit off too. You can get a decent base computer, throw in some RAM and a decent video card for somewhere around $300. You still have all the functionality of a regular computer when you want to use it for that, but then you can also play games. You can even get handy controllers if that's how you like to play.
  • by kisak (524062) on Monday March 10, 2008 @06:32PM (#22709150) Homepage Journal

    Because nobody makes games for linux.

    I don't understand why Linux Game Publishing [linuxgamepublishing.com] don't get more credit on this page.

    The ones that are interested in commercial games on linux [tuxgames.com], should start buying the ones available. Then there will be more. If few want to spend money on games on linux then there will be less new and exciting games available, it is that simple.

  • by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Monday March 10, 2008 @07:01PM (#22709510)
    Insightful? I've _bought_ Doom 3, Unreal Tournament 2003, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, UT3 and Quake 3. All of which have native Linux binaries. I've bought many other games without native binaries that I've only ever played on Linux, including HL2 AND The Orange Box, Painkiller, Hitman, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts etc etc. If a game is worth playing, I don't begrudge paying for it.

    I would prefer all the software I use to be Free (with a capital F), but I'm somewhat pragmatic when it comes to games. The misguided notion that all Linux users are only using Linux and Free/open source software because it is free, as in beer, is, at best, dubious.
  • by mcvos (645701) on Monday March 10, 2008 @07:07PM (#22709582)

    1) Here's the thing, if I buy a PC to play DVD's, browse the Internet, etc, I can get something for $400-600 that does the job adequately. However, that system will not play games. If I want to play games I'm looking at a $1000-1500 box at a minimum.

    Nonsense. Only if you want to play Crysis on the highest settings do you need to spend that much on a PC. You can get an excellent gaming PC for much less, particularly if you want to play strategy games, which is where PCs excell. Consoles still don't come with a mouse (still the fastest, easiest and most versatile controller).

    What I'm saying is that when the PS2 came out, my PC was substantially faster than the PS2. When the PS3 came out, the overall performance was probably a little better in my PC, but not enough that I'd really notice with most games.

    That's because the PS3 cost as much as a PC when it first came out.

    Heck, the wii demonstrates that you can make a compelling gaming environment on pretty low end hardware.

    Exactly. In the end, it's the interface that matters most, and there are a lot of games for which a standard console controler is a completely unsuitable interface. A mouse is faster, more accurate, and much more versatile. The wiimote is very promising, however. Finally a controler that can be used as a mouse.

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